She writes Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax, requesting to be allowed to address the U.S. Congress on “woman’s enfranchisement”.
She also flexes the women’s movement’s political muscles; With a rare printing she sent to Colfax
In November of 1853, Anthony took up her first cause, and her first campaign, for women. It related to securing additional rights to own property in New York, and the effort extended to 1855. But the...
She also flexes the women’s movement’s political muscles; With a rare printing she sent to Colfax
In November of 1853, Anthony took up her first cause, and her first campaign, for women. It related to securing additional rights to own property in New York, and the effort extended to 1855. But the overwhelming issue of the day was slavery, and in 1856 Anthony became involved as an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, seeking the abolition of slavery. With the onrush of events leading to war, little was accomplished for women in those early years.
"Will you ask the Honorable Body over which you preside, to grant the use of the House of Representatives for some day early in January, for Mr. Train, Mrs. Stanton and Anthony to present the questions of woman’s enfranchisement and educated suffrage. "
During the Civil War the leaders of the woman's movement suspended action on behalf of their own rights in order to concentrate on the abolition of slavery. On May 14, 1863, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the Women's National Loyal League to campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery; the League was the first national women's political organization in the United States. In the largest petition drive in the nation's history up to that time, the League collected nearly 400,000 signatures on petitions to abolish slavery and presented them to Congress. Its petition drive significantly assisted the passage of the 13th Amendment, which passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31, 1865, and ended slavery in the United States. The passage of this amendment had an significant impact on Anthony and Stanton, as they saw that Congress had been successfully pressed into action to secure the rights of blacks. They thought that such a tactic might well work for the women’s suffrage movement as well.
The Woman's Rights Convention in April 1866 was the first held since the beginning of the Civil War. The call to the Convention reflects Stanton and Anthony’s continuing focus on Congress, which was then debating the proposed 14th amendment. The women were concerned that Congress would extend suffrage to black males, but as the call stated, “deny that necessity of citizenship to women”. That convention transformed itself into the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), whose purpose was "to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color or sex." The 14th Amendment passed in June 1866, and as feared, it omitted any mention of women.
The AERA conducted two major campaigns in 1867. A New York State Constitutional Convention was to be held in June to revise the state constitution. During the last months of 1866 and the beginning of 1867, Anthony and Stanton organized a series of meetings and traversed the state, seeking support "to adopt measures to engraft the principle of universal suffrage upon the constitution of the state." Other participating speakers included Lucy Stone, Charles Lenox Remond, and Frederick Douglass. AERA workers also collected petitions for the Convention in support of women's suffrage and the removal of property requirements that discriminated against blacks. Stone managed to obtain permission to address the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Amendments at the Convention, requesting that the revised constitution strike the word “male”, and thus include women’s suffrage. Their efforts failed.
After New York the women turned their attention to Kansas, where there were two referenda on whether to enfranchise women and/or black males. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled throughout the state speaking in favor of these measures. To their disappointment, they encountered resistance to the campaign for women's suffrage from former abolitionist allies who viewed it as a hindrance to the immediate goal of winning suffrage for black males. They also found that the financial support they had expected from these quarters was not forthcoming, leaving them strapped for cash. In the end, both measures were voted down.
In Kansas, Stanton and Anthony turned for financial assistance to George Francis Train, a wealthy, flamboyant, eccentric Democrat. After the referenda were defeated, Train sponsored a cross-country lecture tour by Stanton, Anthony, and himself. The tour ended with a Saturday night presentation in Steinway Hall in New York City on December 14, 1867. At that time Train provided the funds to fulfill one of Anthony’s long held dreams of a woman’s rights newspaper: The Revolution first appeared on January 8, 1868, with Susan B. Anthony as publisher and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as co-editor. The paper's articles and editorials would reflect their views on issues affecting the political, social, sexual, economic, and educational status of women.
The final text of the 14th Amendment, passed by Congress in June 1866, did not include anything relating to the right to vote, and although the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed, there was a push to formalize these rights into a 15th constitutional amendment. Congress would be debating the proposed voting rights amendment in 1868, and Stanton and Anthony were opposed to the extension of voting rights if applied only to race, color, or previous condition of servitude; they wanted gender included as well. Their arguments for this position needed to reach Congress and the people of the country.
In 1864, anti-slavery and women’s rights advocate Anna Dickinson was rewarded for her efforts to elect a Republican majority to Congress with an invitation to speak before the U.S. Congress. She entered the House chamber on the arm of Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax, an outspoken supporter of women’s suffrage. Dickinson then spoke on the war and slavery before an audience that included President and Mrs. Lincoln, and was given a standing ovation. The event received wide news coverage.
Clearly Anthony had this kind of ceremonial occasion in mind, with its attendant publicity for the cause, as well as the need to mold the upcoming constitutional amendment, when she made the bold, daring decision to write Speaker Colfax directly and ask for a similar event to place women’s suffrage before the Congress and indeed the nation. He was hoping his sympathies would outweigh his concern about the political cost. This is the very letter in which she did so, unknown to history until now.
Autograph letter signed, with her brand new The Revolution masthead proudly glued to the top of the first page, New York, December 17, 1867, to Colfax. “Geo. Francis Train, Mrs. E. Cady Stanton and myself having just returned from Kansas, where, in securing 7,000 votes for the enfranchisement of woman, we hold the balance of power in the state; and having addressed large audiences in the great cities of nine states on our way homeward, now intend to speak in Washington. Will you ask the Honorable Body over which you preside, to grant the use of the House of Representatives for some day early in January, for Mr. Train, Mrs. Stanton and Anthony to present the questions of woman’s enfranchisement and educated suffrage. Trusting that you will give early & favorable notice to the above, I am yours respectfully, Susan B. Anthony.” She followed with a postscript: “P.S. Mr. Train was invited by our N.Y. State Constitutional Convention to address its members in the Assembly Chamber at Albany on the question of woman’s suffrage. Mr. T. did so – and is the only man outside the Convention who has addressed that body in our behalf. S.B.A.” The envelope in her hand, postmarked December 18, is still present. It is interesting that she crossed out the words “to us” after “grant”, yet without changing the meaning. Perhaps she thought the original language struck just a tad too strong a tone.
Nothing ever came of this initiative, and it seems to have been lost to history, as we cannot find mention of this letter anywhere. It is apparently a new discovery, one that provides extraordinary insight into Anthony’s strategy and audacity as she maneuvered to gain the franchise for women.
Included with this letter is a very rare flyer, apparently sent to Colfax as an enclosure. Printed December 7, 1867, it promoted the last engagement of their 1867 speaking tour, the one at Steinway Hall in New York City on December 14, 1867, and the upcoming publication of The Revolution. It detailed the speeches made by Anthony, Stanton and Train on recent occasions, and the receptions their speeches generated. The announcement portion leads with “God Save the People. The Revolution. Clear the track, the train is coming”, then in bold lists the causes the newspaper would champion and its attitude in doing so: “Educated Suffrage…Eight Hours Labor… Down With the Politicians and Up With the People…” We have found a few copies of this important flyer in institutions, but are unaware of any in private hands.
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